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Papi's Big Pitch

Shooting a commercial with David Ortiz, kids learn about spittin' and sluggin'

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David Ortiz.
David Ortiz. I
Damian Strohmeyer/S

By Lisa Altobelli

David Ortiz, as his Red Sox teammates know from so many walk-off celebrations, is one huggable lug of a guy, and as 10 Boston-area Boys & Girls Club members greeted him in Fenway's outfield last month, they, too, felt the urge to merge. Said Taylor Adams, 8, "I just really want to hug him." The 6'4", 230-pound lefty, on hand to film an MLB public-service spot with the kids, promptly scooped Taylor up in his massive arms while the others shouted, "Me, too."

"It's hard not to love Big Papi," said Frank Sanchez, a senior director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, MLB's official charity, which runs programs for some 4.4 million children each year.

Ortiz spent the shoot divulging hitting tips. "Spit on your hands, clap and rub it in to get you in the hitting mood," said Ortiz. "Then give the pitcher a mean look, and dig into the dirt with your foot. It drives pitchers crazy. Then ask the catcher how their mama's doing. If you get friendly with them, they might give you something to hit."

The kids, ages seven to 14, took turns hitting a ball off a tee, the longest drive coming from 13-year-old Rowanny Estrella (in red), whom Ortiz dubbed Mini-Manny after teammate Manny Ramirez. Perhaps it was coincidence, or the ghosts of Fenway, but the metal door of the Green Monster suddenly flew open. "Hey! It's Manny's room," Ortiz said. "He likes it in there so much that sometimes [during games] Manny just stays in there." The kids then went inside the scoreboard, pretending to search for Ramirez.

The 30-minute shoot was edited to a 30-second spot that began airing this month and is, alas, bereft of almost all of Ortiz's wise words, including his final advice. "When you go to hit," the slugger told the kids, "you need to be tranquilo. It means calm and relaxed -- just chill out."

Issue date: May 22, 2006